September 30, 2022
“It was one of our better hunts of the year,” Joel Morris recalled. “A cold front had just moved in providing ideal conditions, one of those days you could have shot a case of shells.”
It took less than that before the first birds were downed, retrieved, and shown to include a prize, leaving the question of to whom it belongs. “As a group, we usually have a drawing for the band, but since it was my lease, my buddies were kind enough to give it to me as long as I had it mounted.” He planned to anyway, but Morris was even more certain when he learned about his prize.
As it was still early in the hunt, Morris had time to report the band during a lull in the action. Given the excess wear, he suspected it was an old bird, but had no idea just how old. “They actually emailed me back to confirm the numbers because they thought I entered the wrong info,” said Morris. Upon double checking, the USGS Bird Banding Lab confirmed the bird had indeed been banded in 2005, making it at least 18 years old. Furthermore, it was banded as an adult, so it might well have been considerably older. “I knew it was old, but not that old. We were all shocked.”
The distance it had traveled to its demise was also impressive, more than 3,200 miles from Alaska’s North Slope to central Kansas.
Banding efforts for greater white-fronted geese were initiated in the 1960s to address a scarcity of harvest distribution data and relative survival rates in Alaska. Subsequent results during the 1990s showed declines in abundance of the midcontinent population in interior Alaska, and heightened concern prompted an expansion of the program to the Arctic Coastal Plain in 2003. The bird Morris harvested was one of only 198 birds banded in Noatak in 2005 as part of that study, making its recovery even more remarkable.
HUNTER: Joel Morris
BAND #: 1727-31324
SPECIES: Greater White-fronted Goose (M)
LOCATION: Noatak, AK
LOCATION: Emporia, Kansas
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